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Nintendo NES Classic Edition: A Modern Blast From The Past

Anyone who was a kid in the 1980s – or had kids in the 1980s – fondly remembers the huge, black-and-gray Nintendo Entertainment System. You could play Donkey Kong, Galaga, Super Mario Bros. and tons of other games in the comfort of your home without having to hang out at an arcade and continually pump quarters into the games while fighting off other wanna-be players.

Welcome to the new-and-improved good old days. The hot gift this Christmas is the Nintendo NES Classic Edition, which amazingly recreates the experience of playing an old Nintendo console – but with graphics none of us could have imagined in the ‘80s.

The Console

A large part of the NES Classic Edition’s charm is the fact that it’s almost exactly like the original box, but much smaller. The power and reset buttons look and feel just as you remember them, the power red light looks the same, the grooves on the console look the same. There’s even a “cartridge slot” although it doesn’t open; the games are, of course, all programmed into the machine. The only differences you’ll notice (other than the overall size) are that the front ports for the Wii Classic-compatible controllers are wider – and that it only takes five seconds for the console to boot up.


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The Nintendo NES Classic is a breeze to set up because you only need to plug in the controllers, connect it to your TV with an HDMI cable, and plug the power cable into any USB port or the included wall adapter. That’s 30-60 seconds at most, and you can get started with all those games you keep telling your kids were so fabulous.

The Games

Yep, they’re all here. When you start up the NES Classic Edition, you get a simple menu that shows you all of your old favorites from B to Z (there’s no game that starts with “A”), from Balloon Fight and Bubble Bobble to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. In between there’s Pac-Man, Final Fantasy, all of the Mario games, Donkey Kong Jr. as well as its predecessor – 20 of them in all.

They’ll look different, though, because they’ll look better. Much better, thanks to the combination of an HDMI connection and more attention to engineering and programming detail – which quite frankly, looks much better than the Wii Virtual Console ever did. The clarity, colors, detail and shading are spectacular. If your fantasy is to have the old games look just like they used to, however, the Classic Edition lets you change to a standard TV 4:3 mode or even a blurry CRT mode that makes the games look like you really are back in the ‘80s. You can also pause games and save them for later, a nice touch.


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The Drawbacks

Sorry, but it’s not all smiley faces and disco balls. There are three drawbacks to consider.

  • The controllers haven’t really changed: there’s no home button and the cables are still short. Really short, requiring you to sit right under the TV just like the old days. Why did they design it this way? We have no idea, but you’ll need extenders or third-party controllers to be comfortable. Incidentally, the Wii Classic controller will work with the NES Classic, and of course it does have a home button (but alas, also a short cable).
  • The console comes standard with just one controller. Why? We assume it’s so you’ll pay to buy a second one – which naturally, you’ll want to do.
  • Good luck finding one. The Nintendo NES Classic is this year’s Cabbage Patch Kid (substitute your favorite holiday fad toy if you’d like) – it sells out as soon as some are available in the stores or online, so finding the $60 console is going to be tough. The good news is that this is a toy for adults, who may willing to shell out the $250 or $500 the Classic has been fetching on eBay just to relive their youth this Christmas.


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Are the drawbacks worth getting a NES Classic? If you fondly remember trying to rescue a girl from a giant gorilla throwing barrels at you, eating dots and fruit while dodging ghosts, or running around a mushroom-strewn landscape and jumping on enemies while trying to rescue a princess – yes, you’re going to want one of these babies.

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